It should come as no surprise that the 'super-group' Hudson have a sound so distinct it defies easy categorization. Percussionist Jack DeJohnette, bassist Larry Grenadier, keyboardist John Medeski and guitarist John Scofield are four individuals sharing an inclination for adventure tempered with a wealth of experience that imparts no small amount of humility to this collaborative effort: they know how to stay out of each other's way.
Such practical virtues become further highlighted by the common thread of the quartet's individual and collective fondness for the scenic upstate New York area where this album was recorded. Thus, the crowning touch of this album turns out to be a choice of material with multiple, distinct threads of reference to these environs. Reading the list of song titles here, including Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," will no doubt bring a smile and a similar reaction should arise from hearing Hudson outline the melodies of such a tune or that of Jimi Hendrix' "Wait Until Tomorrow" (during the summer of 1969,the late guitar icon sequestered himself in the adjacent neighborhood of Shokan).
It's an embarrassment of riches to hear musicians this skilled and intuitive play together on such savvy choices or the aforementioned Nobel Laureate's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall;" a nine-minute instrumental take amplifies the message of the lyrics all the more loudly without them, in part because the expert engineering here delivers such realistic audio. In doing all the recording, mixing and mastering at NRS Studios in Catskill, NewYork, Scott Petito's participation in the Hudson project is comparable to the players themselves.
More often than not, the group moves in sync with Scofield in the lead on his instrument to delineate the tune before the ensemble departs for more ambient terrain, as on Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock." Yet the converse of that approach also aids to maintain the uniformity among these eleven tracks: the self-referential title song slowly but surely crystallizes into coherence. If the guitarist seems to get inordinate prominence here, Medeski dispels that notion with his multi-textured, unpredictable intro to The Band's "Up On Cripple Creek" and the keyboard wizard's s own spotlight within the track is similarly replete with his idiosyncratic thinking.
Two originals from the guitarist, "El Swing" and "Tony Then Jack." allow for open-ended spontaneity, while a pair of DeJohnette compositions, in addition to his collaboration with keyboardist Bruce Hornsby "Dirty Ground,") leaven the mix of material here with a continuity of their own. "Song For World Forgiveness" features gospel-inflected vocals in reflection of the charitable intent of its title, while the concluding "Great Spirit Peace Chant" is an extension of that number and its implicit intention, all the voices intoning as harmoniously as the instruments throughout the preceding tracks.
The honesty and purpose of those numbers and the performances is wholly in line with those recordings surrounding them, in sum a gesture of positivism and tranquility mirrored in the panoramic cover photo as well as the similarly picturesque, verdant images inside the CD booklet. DeJohnette, Grenadier, Scofield and Medeski,do themselves and their resumes proud all the way around with Hudson.
Hudson; El Swing; Lay Lady Lay; Woodstock; A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall; Wait
Until Tomorrow; Song For World Forgiveness; Dirty Ground; Tony Then Jack; Up
On Cripple Creek; Great Spirit Peace Chant.
John Scofield: guitar, wooden flute; John Medeski: piano, rhodes, Hammond B-3
organ, wooden flute, vocals; Larry Grenadier: acoustic bass, vocals; Jack
DeJohnette: drums, tom-tom, wooden flute, vocals.
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